Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives, Challenge #7: Ask Your Representative to Join the Congressional History Caucus

When we want to advocate for archives in Congress, it will certainly help if our members are aware of archives and why they are important. So here’s an opportunity to reach out to your member of Congress and ask him or her to join the Congressional History Caucus. This is not hard–you can do it! Don’t count on someone else writing—because they may be waiting for you to do it instead. So please, read the information on the SAA website at  http://www2.archivists.org/living-dangerously/congressional-history-caucus   and then contact your member of Congress.

I’ve done some time walking the halls and underground corridors of the various Congressional office buildings—and when we get time with staff or a member of Congress, it’s frustrating to spend the first part of that precious 10 or 15 minutes trying to explain what archives are and where archives and archivists exist in that member’s district. The more Congressional members hear from us, the more we become a “known” group of constituents.

The Congressional History Caucus is one way to get the name and idea of archives in front of our federal legislators, to raise their “awareness” of our value. Please use this opportunity to contact your Congressperson. It’s an easy ask—they don’t have to vote on money, challenging policies, or politically hot issues. They just have to sign on to become a member of the Caucus. Not hard at all for them, and if they know their constituents want it—well, even better.

But the bottom line is, as Wayne Gretsky used to say, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” You have to ask.   And don’t assume someone else will take care of making the contacts—because they are probably waiting for you to make the contact instead. It is honestly amazing how many issues people feel passionately about—but don’t take that very simple first step of contacting their member. Getting Congress to understand the value and importance of archives begins with us—each of us speaking up every chance we have to let them know who we are, and why the records we manage matter. So please, celebrate the return of Spring by helping to grow Congressional awareness of archives. We can do this!

Addressing Archival Issues: University of Oregon Records Release–and Beyond

In response to several member requests for SAA to consider commenting on the recent incident relating to the release of records at the University at Oregon, I sought advice from several groups, the Council discussed options, and we reached agreement on a response. For background on the issue and the Council’s response see http://www2.archivists.org/news/2015/saa-response-to-member-request-re-university-of-oregon-records-release-incident

I’m gratified to hear from members when they think that SAA should make a statement or respond to a current situation, as well as their thoughts on what we do or don’t “say.” Each situation that emerges poses challenges when a response is requested on behalf of SAA rather than by individuals. In the two most recent cases—the acquisition by the University of Texas at Austin of the García Márquez papers and the University of Oregon records release incident—there has been considerable traffic via email, twitter, and Facebook. Members and other archival colleagues have written that “SAA ought to do something.” Continue reading

Who is an archivist? Letter to the Editor of USA Today

Yesterday an article in the USA Today online edition referred to a man who collected child pornography as an “archivist”.  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/02/11/child-exploitation-dark-web-prisoner/22100993/ (note: content is challenging to read).
Dean DeBolt posted information on this to the Archives and Archivists listserv, and several members urged a response from SAA.  After quickly seeking advice on this, I prepared a brief letter to the editor focusing on what an archivist is and appropriate use of the term.   It was an opportunity to point out (in less than 180 words) what defines an archivist–and that is much more than being a “collector” of anything however laudable or objectionable.

 

I’ve submitted the letter, and am not sanguine about whether it will be published.  I also posted it in the “comments” section on the article, and it is showing up on Facebook comments.  For the future, perhaps having something on this order that has been discussed and developed with more time and attention would be a good thing to have in our “toolkit”.   Meanwhile, if you have other comments or thoughts, let me know.   Here is the brief statement I submitted:

Continue reading

Why I am an archivist

The fourth challenge in the “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” brings the focus to each of you: Why are you an archivist?

In past months, the calls to action for the “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” have focused on the value that others find in archives. Now it’s time to talk about the value WE see in what we do. Whether you came into this profession intentionally, by way of a related profession, or by some unforeseen path, there’s a reason why you’ve decided to stay or to pursue a degree. Please take a few minutes (now!) to think about why you’re an archivist–and share that with us. http://www2.archivists.org/living-dangerously/why-i-am-an-archivist

I firmly believe in not asking people to do something I would not be willing to do myself, so let me start this conversation by telling you why I am an archivist. Mine is just one perspective, one answer for one person. I look forward to hearing your stories. Continue reading

Archives and Art: A Story from Detroit

The story of Detroit’s bankruptcy and the accompanying challenges has been in the news regularly for some time. My French-Canadian ancestors came across “détroit” (the straits) in the 1790s and generations of my family have been proud to call that city home—and when asked where I’m from, I still claim Detroit. I was fortunate to pursue my archival education at Wayne State University in the archival studies program led by Dr. Philip P. Mason. One of the great gifts for students at Wayne is the nearness of the Detroit Institute of Art, where we often would head on weekends or between classes to wander through the galleries. So I regularly read the articles about the bankruptcy, which included discussions of potentially selling off some or all of the astonishing collections of the DIA. Continue reading

A Seasonal Toast to Archives: Challenge #3

As we approach the holiday season – replete with wishes of good cheer and year-end toasts, let’s take an opportunity to share the thoughts we all encounter that remind us of the value of archives.

Why do archives matter?  This month’s challenge is simple:  Think about the “quotable” statements you’ve heard or read – perhaps in a professional presentation, an archives class or workshop, a newspaper, magazine, or journal article, a novel or play. The statement may have been made by someone with international recognition, a local “everyday” person, one of your professors, or a friend.  Whatever she or he wrote or said, it made you think, “Yes, that’s why archives are important, that’s why what I do matters….” Continue reading

#AskAnArchivist Day: A Tweet Success

Peter Gottlieb, Chair, SAA Committee on Public Awareness    Peter_Gottlieb_2008bw (1)

This year, SAA President Kathleen Roe dared SAA members to take on a “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives”—to do something to take action to raise awareness of archives. On October 30, at the tail end of American Archives Month, the Committee on Public Awareness challenged members to do just that: We asked archivists to take to Twitter to respond to questions from the public that included the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. Continue reading